Thursday 12 December 2019

Eoghan Harris: RTE skewered with trident of truth wielded by Whelan

Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

The Marian Finucane media panel pulls off a major stroke of myopia. It discusses Greece without a single reference to Pat Cradock's powerful piece in this paper.

Considering that Cradock is a former Irish ambassador to Greece, lives in Athens and writes assertively, Finucane should have marked the panel's cards C minus.

Dr Gavan Titley, lecturer in the Centre for Media Studies, Maynooth, gives the nod to his PC peers by ignoring the Sunday Independent but pulling the forelock to two posh British papers. "There are two excellent pieces, one is in the Sunday Times, which is a two-page spread on the great euro crisis. And then there is a very interesting piece in the Observer by Peter Beaumont on what he calls the new insurgents, Europe's rebel leaders who are spurning the era of bling. It's a really interesting piece."

So, so, much more interesting than the insights of a former Irish ambassador to Greece in the Sunday Independent. But that failure, which seemed to me pretentious, was not Titley's only omission of a chance to raise Irish issues of moment. Most media lecturers seize every chance to mention the concentration of media power in the hands of moguls like Murdoch.

But Titley showed no interest in raising the impending concentration of media power in Ireland -- with the full connivance of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Maybe he will get around to it on his next outing. Which will be soon, as Titley is easily the most effective left-wing contributor in the long list of leftie lecturers who clog up the Pat Kenny and Vincent Browne shows.

Here I must declare an interest. Gavan Titley is marginally a better media communicator than his father, Professor Alan Titley, professor of modern Irish in UCC. Alan is the only person I know who can give me a run for my money on a public platform. That means Gavan Titley is good.


Sean Foley, who runs Foley's Restaurant in Merrion Row, sends an email thanking those who supported him in the recent row with Raymond Deane and the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. Let me bring you up to speed on this -- and point you towards a rather good pie.

Foley's normally flies the flag of countries celebrating special days. On April 30 last, when Israel's Independence Day was being celebrated in Dublin, Foley bravely flew the blue-and-white Star of David flag of Israel. Actually, the bravery part came when he continued to fly it after pressure from Raymond Deane and the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign to stop.

Foley had no firm position on Israel until the row broke out. But he swiftly brought himself up to speed. As a result of his reading and reflections, he decided to take a leaf from Israel's book and run his own place as he saw fit. Consequently the Israeli flag now flies permanently over his pub.

Summing up his educative experience, Foley said: "I'm sure it can be quite disheartening for Israeli people around the world, to have to listen to biased rhetoric from others."

So much for the politics. Now for the pie. Foley's serves a mouthwatering Oxtail and Mushroom pie. That's not all it serves, but that's the one that hits my spot.


Senator John Whelan was the star of the Oireachtas Committee which reviewed Mission to Prey. He poked RTE chairman Tom Savage with a three-pronged trident: alleging a pre-emptive strike, conflict of interest and consensus thinking in RTE. And he drew blood.

Senator Paschal Mooney professed surprise at the level of hostility to RTE. But not all the animus was aimed at RTE. The Communications Clinic, which Tom Savage

co-founded with Terry Prone, also contributed to the aggro because it is widely perceived to be part of a cosy circle of political and media influence.

Terry Prone is part of Enda Kenny's "kitchen cabinet". She is also a regular contributor on media affairs to RTE radio shows like Pat Kenny -- where her link with the other Kenny is not always pointed up as acutely as it should be. But I doubt she will be on Pat Kenny this week discussing the perceived conflict of interest which bothers Senator Whelan.

As The Irish Times remarked later: "The point that Whelan and others were trying to make, of course, was that before he even drives past security at Montrose, there is a de facto conflict of interest between Savage's commercial interest and his public role."


Summer kicks in hot and heavy, trying to make up for lost time. But not even the most seductive sunset can tempt me to miss TG4's new series. Mo Ghra Sa Daingean with its cast of colourful Dingle characters.

Cast is the correct word. The secret of Dingle, and indeed Kerry, is that its inhabitants are all improvising actors. They don't mock the maudlin scripts that Irish-Americans bring to Ireland. They just tweak some scenes, add authentic dialogue and send the crowds home smiling.

Meantime RTE is running an unreality show called Mo Ghra Sa Enda. The current marshmallow coverage of Enda Kenny's whistle-but-don't-stop tours is careful to whisk him swiftly past the madding crowds. Demoralised by the Fr Reynold's debacle, RTE television news increasingly fails to bring us full coverage of awkward affairs like Kenny's Athlone gaffe.

But they face serious competition from the Irish Independent. Fionnan Sheahan's comment piece today: "Kenny right to hitch a ride on EU growth" is yet another contender for my PCI (Political Colonic Irrigation) prize. But the likely winner is still the front-page headline of Monday, May 14, from the same saccharine stable: "Kenny plans jobs bid to help cash in on EU deal." I hope Prone called to congratulate them.


The Irish Times headline today "Germany and France at odds as euro falls amid market turmoil" sets me pondering the EU's major mistake: putting economic projects like the euro ahead of political unity. As I muse I meet John Gormley, who is brilliant on EU affairs.

Gormley reminds me of a prescient remark made 10 years ago by Romano Prodi: "I am sure the euro will oblige us to introduce a new set of economic policy instruments. It is politically impossible to propose that now. But some day there will be a crisis and new instruments will be created."

That day has dawned. And a grey dawn it is in Ireland. John Gormley's good sense is sorely missed.


If RTE really wants to change its closed culture it should put Tommie Gorman in charge of a top-level "challenging-the-consensus" project. His reports from Mauritius are a role model for young journalists. He reveals that a great reporter is more than a retailer of raw facts.

Think of the huge canvas he has to cover: a loving honeymoon couple caught in the coils of murder and the media, the mental anguish of the extended family in Ireland, a small tourist island sublimating its shame in incoherent anger against outsiders, and the awful prospect that the McAreaveys may get law but not justice. Tommie Gorman, under pressure, tells that tragic tale with grace.

Sunday Independent

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